Ginnie’s Story Behind The Story

1 Jul

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY

“Healthy Hispanic Babies”
Published in Tulsa World, June 20, 2010
By Ginnie Graham
IJJ Immigration in the Heartland Fellow, 2010

The idea to examine prenatal care among immigrants came from a couple of places. Last year, Oklahoma created a program using state and federal funds for the Soon-to-be-Sooners program, which is specifically for prenatal care for illegal immigrants and documented immigrants who do not qualify for the Medicaid-based SoonerCare program. In addition, some programs and clinics have sprung up in recent years targeting immigrant populations based on some dire health statistics.

From a humanitarian standpoint, I found it compelling to describe where a pregnant woman would go for care in Tulsa if she spoke no English, had few resources and feared deportation.

Process

I began gathering data with requests to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which administers Soon-to-be-Sooners and SoonerCare, and to the local city-county health department. The state request was for the number of women served in the past year, costs for those services and overall totals for the programs. The overall totals were to show how much undocumented care represented.

The local health department has data on infant deaths and maternal health in the county by zip code. The statistics show Hispanic women, many of whom are immigrants, had a higher number of infant deaths, low prenatal care and poor maternal health prior to conception as compared to other races and ethnicities. Health department officials told me immigrants usually deliver babies at two hospitals – St. Francis and Hillcrest.

I went to spokespeople for the hospitals and clinics serving immigrant neighborhoods and to immigrant advocates for interviews. There were two often-referred to programs for prenatal care—the nonprofit Catholic Charities and federal medical clinic Community Health Connection. The program officials were more than willing to describe their services, which operate differently.

By chance, during this time, the University of Oklahoma’s College of Nursing approached an editor about a program to improve maternal health among immigrant women, citing some of the same statistics I had found. The program recruits Hispanic women to participate in health education classes. Nurses teach women how to cook healthful meals and provide exercises classes. The goal is to improve the health of women between pregnancies and improve the health of their families. The story about the program dovetailed well into the overall story plan.

Internally, our online videographer signed on, which upped the interest of the editors, who love multi-media elements.

Obstacles

At least half of the social and health workers I encountered did not want to give access to clients. Catholic Charities never allowed us to photograph in the medical clinic, citing patient confidentiality, and refused to allow us interviews with patients.

I used the argument that to further understand the plight of immigrants, we need to tell their stories. While I understand the motives in protecting them, the outcome is their voices are never heard, which relegates them to just a statistic.

Our newspaper has agreed to not publish the names of immigrants who are not documented, which helped gain trust.

The Community Health Connection and OU College of Nursing’s pre-conception program were open to us from the beginning. Both allowed us to interview anyone and photograph without limits.

It helped that the videographer speaks Spanish. He was able to translate and help those we interviewed understand our project. We never had an immigrant turn us down for an interview.

Story Format

The main story focused on the health statistics that led to the formation of programs to improve the outcomes of immigrant deliveries. We choose to quote two women because they had different experiences. One woman delivered her first child in Mexico and the other two children in the U.S. She could compare the Mexican and U.S. systems of care. The other woman delivered all her children in the U.S. beginning more than a decade ago. She was able to talk about how services for immigrants have changed over time.

The statistical information was pulled out into a box and a video refer was on the front page.

I included a second story about the movement to challenge the 14th Amendment. While I had a couple of immigration attorneys try to talk me out of it, arguing it would “complicate” the health-related story, my editors and I felt it was newsworthy to include. There are lawmakers in the state who have promised legislation to challenge birthright citizenship, and the term “anchor baby” kept popping up among online comments and letters-to-the-editor. We wanted to address the issue of birthright citizenship alongside the story about immigrant baby health. If legislation is proposed, I will follow up with more details of 14th Amendment law. The story was to give an overview and dispel the idea that a child’s immigration status can automatically impact a parent’s.

Outcomes

Most online comments to the stories were anti-immigrant with the usual “deport them all” statements. It seems there will always be that group out there. But, all the sources, even the ones reluctant about the story, sent complimentary notes.  We had a great response on the video component. It had 220 online hits within the first four days. The videographer used a documentary-style approach and used subtitles when needed. The sources plan to use it during their community presentations.

Also, the sources gave me ideas for other stories, such as mental health services for immigrants.

Fellowship Influence:

The IJJ Fellowship helped me define the project. I went into the fellowship with an unfocused idea and an interest in the “anchor baby” term. The other Fellows helped shape my focus. The field trip to the Oklahoma City health clinic and the OKC Catholic Charities speaker gave me specific information to go on.  Also, the immigration attorneys at the conference explained the myth of “anchor babies” so I could focus on the 14th Amendment. I may have been able to do the story without the fellowship, but the program made me consider other aspects. The fellowship has been instrumental in helping generate of list of stories yet to come.

Comments

Ken Levit, executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation:
“Excellent piece today— and love the video that accompanied it.  Cool!”

Kevin Sartorius, executive director of Catholic Charities in Tulsa:
“Thank you for all you are doing to help people in need.  I read the article on Sunday and believe it will help people to understand the immigrant population in a way they had not considered before.  I also watched Adam’s video and think he did a good job.”

Jan Figart, associate director at the Tulsa Community Service Council:
“Thank you….it was a great story…front page…Sunday….way cool….”

Laura Bachman, immigration attorney at the University of Tulsa College of Law Boesche Legal Clinic:
“I’m so glad you were able to include two articles on different issues facing immigrants in the TW. They were well researched and written. And even though I swear to myself that I’m not going to read the comments…I did and while there were many hateful ones, there was a lively discussion on both sides. Great job!”

“Your article was insightful and informative. One issue. Why do Hispanics insist on multiple births in each family, given the fact that the vast majority of these people are poverty stricken? Seems to me having ‘healthy’ babies is not the real issue here. The real problem we have far too many Hispanic babies.”
– Jean W. Griffith, a reader in an e-mail

Online Comments

“arrest the illegals in the waiting rooms”
– Press1forEnglish

“If the parents are not here legally the babies should not be US citizens.”
– Travis

“What a terrific story today. Thanks to the Tulsa World for an excellent job about a complicated issue. And thanks to OU, George Kaiser Family Foundation, Catholic Charities that enable these kinds of efforts. Great way to start Fathers Day– learning how to make healthy babies! “                        –ColumbusKids01
“Yet another pro_ILLEGAL propaganda article by Tulsa World staff writers. Simply disgusting. Taxpayers…you’re on the hook for this nonsense! “              – Isaac Parker

”I do not hate babies. I disagree with illegals being in this country having babies at taxpayers expense. I disagree with soon-to-be-sooners being funded while my mothers medicare is being gutted.”
– BI. Collar

Online links

Main story – www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20100620_11_A1_JudyQu199762&archive=yes

Second story – www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20100620_11_A8_DMnsra471080&archive=yes

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